A big thing has been made in the news this week about Facebook surpassing Google as the most viewed website in the US. You can see the figures presented first hand by hitwise here. What are the implications of these findings? How might Facebook be a threat to Google? Can you compare them like for like? How does this affect the world of SEO?

whoa, that was a lot of rhetorical questions right there. Let’s break this Google vs Facebook down…

The Stats

It appears that the stats don’t really tell the full story.  This is google.com vs facebook.com. The stats don’t include the visits to all the other google suites such as gmail, Google Maps and even Youtube (the 2nd largest search engine in the world).

Google Users vs Facebook Users

One key factor which still separates Google from Facebook is the make-up of their users. Sure Facebook recently surpassed the 400m users worldwide landmark which was some feat. But we must consider the motives for users to be active on these sites. People do not go onto Facebook to actively look for products and buy; they go there to socialize and connect with friends. Google on the other hand, whilst users are generally looking for information, the make-up of users who are actively searching to buy products and services are considerably higher. Furthermore the user experience of Google is unaltered despite this increased commercial intent.

Facebook’s continued growth is heavily dependent on its evolving user interface.  The ease with which facebook surpassed MySpace in the social networking stakes serves as a constant reminder as to the fragility of the business. Having said that, a 400m user base represents a significant network effect.

SEO vs Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertising is still in its infancy and it will certainly grow. Facebook has lent more towards banner advertising. With Google users are actively searching for something, whereas with facebook you need to grab the attention of the user instead and try to distract them.  In Facebook  the demographic targeting is fantastic. But with Google you can effectively have keyword specific advertising (via SEO) in the search results that is incredibly targeted and qualified. What I mean by this can best be explained in an example.

If someone types in “Buy Canon Ixus 60 Camera” you already know exactly what they want and that they are prepared to buy. Another way to think about the difference is in terms of push and pull advertising. When it comes to facebook advertising it is very much push advertising. You’re effectively pushing your advertising on users. SEO is more pull advertising. Your customers are actively looking for you and you are just pulling them towards you.

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